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Seattle University


Reaching out to Rwanda

Written by Mike Thee
July 27, 2011

Jim Hembree, senior director of development in University Advancement, has received a Fulbright Specialist grant to spend six weeks in Rwanda where he will assess the potential for fundraising, strategic partnerships and alumni relations at the country’s principal business school.  

Hembree, who leaves for Rwanda later this month, is returning to a country that has influenced him deeply. “It has been a dream of mine to go back to Rwanda since my first visit in August 2009,” he explains. That summer, on a fellowship through Seattle University’s Research for Development Graduate Program, Hembree spent four weeks with Catholic Relief Services creating a funding plan to send approximately 325 orphans and vulnerable children to primary and secondary school.  

“It was a pivotal moment for me to realize that millions of kids want to go to school at all levels from primary to college, but might never fulfill that wish because the resources aren’t there,” he says. 

This summer, with funding from the Fulbright program, Hembree will work with the School of Finance and Banking (SFB), which was founded as part of the country’s reconstruction following the genocide of 1994. He will interview community leaders and potential philanthropists in the country to explore how community partnerships, fundraising and alumni relations strategies can be adapted in a way that best fits the local context. 

Brought to its knees a decade and a half ago, Rwanda is a nation on the rebound. “Rwanda is a beautiful country with one of the fastest growing economies in Africa,” says Hembree. “With Costco and Starbucks importing a good percentage of Rwanda’s coffee crop, there are also strong ties with Seattle and potential connections with SU’s strategic initiative for global engagement. It will be a great time of cultural learning for me and I hope that the project will make a difference for SFB and Seattle U.”  

The Fulbright Specialists Program was created in 2000 to complement the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, America’s flagship international educational exchange activity. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the program has supported men and women who have gone on to become heads of government, Nobel Prize winners, and leaders in education, business, journalism, the arts and other fields. The specialists program provides short-term academic opportunities—ranging from two to six weeks—to prominent U.S. faculty and professionals in order to support post secondary, academic institutions around the world.